What is a Comprehensive Plan?
The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan is a statement of policy and an expression of the county’s vision.
What’s included in a Comprehensive Plan?
When completed, the plan will be a tool to help guide and shape the county’s future growth. The intent of the Comprehensive Plan is to achieve a sustainable future for Pinal County. The Comprehensive Plan will include:
- The vision statement that will guide decision-making;
- A plan for managing anticipated growth and development including all modes of transportation;
- Strategies to create employment centers so residents can live and work in close proximity;
- Goals and policies related to economic development, housing, infrastructure, and environment;
- An implementation plan to realize the vision.
Why should I be interested in the Comprehensive Plan Update Process?
The Comprehensive Plan outlines how and where the entire county should grow and develop over time. It addresses where open space will be preserved, identifies locations for employment-related uses and residential areas, and designates where commercial or services should be located. All of these decisions will impact everyone and your ideas and desires need to be heard.
Can I get updates regarding the project?
Of course! Visit this project website often for the latest information.
Why update the Pinal County Comprehensive Plan?
Arizona continues to grow, and much of this growth will occur in Pinal County. The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan is a tool to meet the needs of our citizens by effectively planning for new development. The update of the Comprehensive Plan is an almost two year process to help our citizens create land use goals for the County.
The Pinal Comprehensive Plan is considered a plan for buildout that carries out Pinal’s vision. What does that mean and why is it important to plan for buildout?
The Pinal Comprehensive Plan is a “vision-based” plan that outlines the county’s future desired condition; a dream rooted in reality. The vision shouldn’t change over time, though projects and strategies to implement the vision will be modified. Bottom line: the long-range plan is intended to implement Pinal’s vision.
Buildout has been defined throughout the process as “all land within Pinal County being designated with an appropriate land use based on a series of criteria, including land ownership patterns, topographic and environmental constraints and opportunities, development potential, infrastructure support, and private property rights. Buildout does not occur at any certain date, since development and growth are dependent upon cyclical market trends and private property interests.”
To give some perspective on this planning timeframe, in 1960, Wilbur Smith developed the first conceptual plan for the Phoenix Metro Area’s freeway system. It has been commonly said that the plan looks remarkably like the one that is being completed this summer with the opening of the remainder of the Red Mountain Freeway in Mesa. It has taken 48 years for this to occur and the system is unfortunately requiring billions of dollars of upgrades since it is at capacity.
Examples such as this are why buildout scenarios have been used in Pinal County as opposed to 10 or 20 year timeframes.
I understand that the Comprehensive Plan is for buildout, but will the Plan address shorter-term implementation strategies?
Yes. Additionally, the Comprehensive Plan will contain a shorter term plan called the Growth Areas Element (a Growing Smarter state statute requirement). This element is based more on current trends and will provide a ten-year timeframe for development within the context of the longer range Land Use, Circulation, and Economic Development Elements.
How is preserving open spaces incorporated into the Pinal Comprehensive Plan?
Throughout this process, the protection of open spaces was the top goal of our citizens. To meet that goal, the County amended the Comprehensive Plan last year to include a new Open Space and Trails Plan. That Plan shows large swaths of mountainous land set aside as open space as well as regional parks, wildlife corridors and trails throughout the County. The new Draft Plan strengthens this commitment by making open space an essential part of the overall land use planning effort.
How does the Pinal Comprehensive Plan address the county’s current and future transportation challenges?
One of the major concerns of our citizens is how they will be able to travel when future growth occurs. Maricopa County grew very rapidly from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. Their transportation system was failing until they started to build freeways in the 1980’s. Maricopa County was able to use local, State, and Federal money to build their freeway network. For a variety of reasons, many of these same funding sources may not be available to Pinal County. The transportation system we build here must be able to accommodate future growth safely and efficiently.
The new Draft Plan shows a proposed network of freeways and parkways, and a variety of transit options including commuter rail. By anticipating these transportation needs now, the Cities, Towns, and County can begin to secure the land needed to build the effective transportation system of the future. Much of this land can be secured through the development approval process, which could save taxpayers millions of dollars.
What does “attracting living wage jobs” mean in Pinal?
Living wage jobs provide the kind of pay that provides a comfortable lifestyle where families’ needs are met. Over and over again our citizens told us that they want to be sure that these jobs will be available in Pinal for their children and grandchildren. According to 2000 US Census figures and 2007 data developed by the Central Arizona Association of Governments, Pinal County currently has only 160 jobs per 1,000 residents and this number has dropped from 200 per 1,000 only seven years ago. By contrast, Maricopa and Pima Counties both have over 500 jobs per 1,000 residents. While it is true that some jobs naturally follow population growth, these jobs are often in retail and typically offer lower wages.
How does Pinal County’s employment targets compare to Maricopa and Pima Counties?
Unfortunately, we’ve found that Pinal County has less than a third of the jobs per capita than both Pima and Maricopa Counties (based on total number of jobs per capita from the 2000 US Census). More recent figures developed by the Central Arizona Association of Governments and its consultants show the employment situation in Pinal County has worsened between 2000 and 2007 due to population growth outpacing job growth.
The employment numbers that have been used throughout the Pinal County Comprehensive Plan process have been total employment numbers inclusive of all jobs (commercial, industrial, etc.). That is consistent with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and Pima Association of Governments (PAG) numbers.
What kinds of jobs are needed to ensure Pinal’s economic future?
To ensure long term economic sustainability, a mix of jobs must be created in Pinal County. Certain jobs, such as retail and service sector, will be created when the population reaches a certain level. However, population alone does not attract high quality, living wage jobs.
While it is understood that service sector jobs will begin to close this employment gap as more people move to Pinal County, without a concerted effort to create more than service sector jobs, Pinal County’s economic sustainability and livability will continue to be in question. This is a concern regularly articulated by the public through our Comprehensive Plan outreach. Quality employment has been defined throughout the process as “jobs that provide living wages comparable to those in Maricopa and Pima Counties, that provide full benefits for employees, offer continuing educational choices, and provide advancement career path opportunities.”
What can the Comprehensive Plan do to contribute to the creation of quality jobs?
The Comprehensive Plan is a policy document that will guide decisions about where and how the various land uses, including employment, should be created. Pinal County can learn from other places in diversification of the employment base.
Places that want to attract living wage jobs will set aside land which is well suited for employment. The City of Chandler is a good example of this type of forward thinking: they set aside lands very early in their history to attract the high paying jobs they have today. The land designated for employment came under pressure for development of other types of uses such as residential or commercial based on the current market demand but the City remained committed to ensuring quality jobs. These jobs have helped to create a very strong economy in Chandler and amenities for their residents.
In comparison, Maricopa and Pima Counties have developed activity and job centers that are not totally commercial-based to attract higher paying, career path jobs, including:
- Sky Harbor Airport
- Scottsdale AirparkCentral
- Phoenix Corridor
- Phoenix-Goodyear Airport
- Phoenix Desert Ridge
- Tucson International
- Tucson Foothills Resort District
- Chandler Blvd./Ocotillo
- State Capitol
- Glendale Stadium District
- ASU/Town Lake
- Phoenix-Gateway Airport
- Downtown Tucson
- U of A
- I-10 Industrial Corridor
To date, only a few activity centers have been identified in Pinal County and these are largely within municipal boundaries (e.g., Casa Grande, Eloy). Very few activity centers have been identified in the unincorporated areas of Pinal County. Pinal County simply lags behind in the identification of activity and job centers which attract quality employment opportunities.
The new draft Plan shows many new job centers. Some are located along the planned north-south freeway which will link Mesa with Florence and Coolidge before connecting to Interstate 10. There are also job centers planned throughout the County, typically in areas with good existing and planned transportation access. The locations with good existing access will allow jobs to be created immediately, long before the north-south freeway is built.
How can the County ensure there is enough water to accommodate expected development?
Ensuring adequate water supplies is not in the control or jurisdiction of Pinal County; this lies in the hands of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The Comprehensive Plan contains a Water Resources Element that outlines policies for water conservation and maximization of water resources.
How does the Plan integrate with the County’s municipalities?
Pinal County has no planning jurisdiction over the incorporated municipal areas. The land use plans of each of the cities and towns in the county have been reflected in the Comprehensive Plan. The Plan has also taken into consideration the planning done in the Municipal Planning Areas (MPAs), lands extending beyond the corporate limits of the municipalities where potential land uses have been identified in municipal plans.
The Pinal Comprehensive Plan process has engaged the County’s municipalities throughout the process, and is continuing to work with municipalities and Indian Communities to ensure that the Plan is compatible with these jurisdictions planning efforts.
Why is so much land needed for the potential commercial airport?
The area designated for the commercial airport is actually smaller than the Airport Reserve area designated on the existing Comprehensive Plan. In any case, a significant amount of land is needed just for the airport operation itself. The airport is also envisioned to be a significant employment area for the region and additional land will be required to make this happen. Finally, the Airport Expansion area also needs to be designed to buffer airport operations from residential development and other non-compatible land uses. Further study is needed to develop the actual airport configuration and to determine the amount of land that will be needed to accommodate it.
I have heard that this is a “no growth” plan. Is this true?
No. The Comprehensive Plan provides for a sustainable development pattern, effectively managing the growth expected to come to Pinal. The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan offers a variety of housing types and densities (x to x), a multimodal circulation plan that offers regional connectivity solutions, an activity center-based employment strategy that reserves a variety of employment lands, and an open space plan that protects Pinal’s natural resources and beauty for generations to come.
The Land Use map is not specific enough to see what development is allowed. How can this be addressed?
The Comprehensive Plan is a regional, conceptual philosophy that reflects the vision for the future. In an area larger than the State of Connecticut, it is impossible to delineate the recommended land uses for each parcel. The Comprehensive Plan will outline a process whereby specific area plans will be developed, which in turn, will allow for more detailed land use planning to occur. In addition, there are many decisions to be made regarding the future transportation system that are not entirely in the county’s control including several new major roadways and freeways. The actual locations for these projects require many years of study by agencies such as the Arizona Department of Transportation to determine the specific alignment.